What is on-page SEO?
Chances are, you’ve heard of SEO or Search Engine Optimization before. (If you haven’t, you’ve been living under a rock for the past fifty years! Just kidding.)
But what does it mean?
From keyword optimization to boosting page ranks, understanding what it means to have strong SEO can sometimes seem ambiguous.
But it doesn’t have to be.
The most significant component of SEO is on-page SEO (which we’ll get into greater detail about in a minute). Understanding what this means and how to implement it on your sites is instrumental in getting your page(s) higher on the Google algorithm and seen by more potential customers.
From starting small to ending big, here’s your ultimate guide to the SEO basics and getting your site’s visibility, traffic, and eventual purchases up.
What is SEO and Why is it Important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This refers to how frequently your page(s) are showing up in relevant Google searches and how strong your visibility is. It directly correlates to traffic, which in turn relates to potential customers and sales.
SEO is one of the most influential marketing components because there are over one billion internet users (and that number is only growing). When you boost your on-page SEO, you are substantially increasing your site’s ability to show up higher on the search engine results page (SERP).
The more your name shows up, the higher the potential for growth! And this can only continue once it starts.
9 Key Factors to On-Page SEO
1. Title Tags
What is the first impression your site makes on potential customers? What is the first thing they see when they find you in search? It’s not your pretty graphics. It’s not your fancy new web design.
The first thing users see and the thing that convinces them to click through to your site has nothing to do with branding. That first impression is the page’s title tag and meta description.
What Is A Title Tag?
The title tag is the coded title of a page on your website. It’s the name of the page and supported by the URL. Your title tag is the biggest clue for what the page is about.
Search engine crawlers will consider your page title first when deciding what to expect from the page.
The Importance of Title Tags
Your title tag is one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. A title tag, of course, relates to the title. Title tags should always incorporate a keyword (more on that in a minute) and use the H1 tag when in text. A keyword is a word or phrase that people will primarily input to search for a specific topic, service, product, or business.
In search results, a user has nothing to base their selection on except the title of the page and the description you’ve provided about the page content. Despite the importance of these items they are also the most common on-page SEO issues.
Tons of sites are using duplicate titles, missing meta descriptions, or ignoring them both altogether. It’s crucial to understand the importance of title tags and meta descriptions and why you need to make them a primary objective in your SEO campaign.
When your title incorporates the keyword, it’s going to bring that visibility up naturally. Primarily if you’re focusing on what people are actually searching rather than merely trying to ‘write to a topic.’
How to Write A Great Title
Once you’ve done your keyword research you’ll know what you want the page to rank for. You want to include the primary keyword in the title of the site and an additional heading within the copy.
For instance, if you are trying to rank for “fresh food delivery” you need to include it in your title. A good title for that keyword is “The Top 5 Fresh Food Delivery Services in McLean, VA”.
What makes this a great title? It’s clear, concise, contains the primary keyword near the beginning. It gives an idea of the length of the article, there are only 5 places.
It lists the exact location you’ll be focusing the article on. So, this post has the potential to rank both locally and nationally for the primary keyword, and offers the opportunity for a schema list which could win a snippet.
All in all, I’m clicking on it. Especially if it has a great meta description like, “Five new food delivery services you haven’t heard about before in McLean, VA. Stay healthy, eat well, and keep the kitchen clean by getting meals delivered right to your door.” Character count, 177.
2. Meta Descriptions
When is the last time you looked at your site in the actual search engine result pages (SERPs)? If you haven’t recently than we want you to go ahead and Google your highest ranked keyword. Take a look at the results.
There are no snazzy graphics. No standout block text. It’s a white page and black text.
How do you choose which result to pick? You have no other option than to read the title and meta of the page and preview blurb of the content. Then you make your decision based on which answers your query the best.
What is a Meta Description?
The meta tag description of each page is a short blurb showcasing what the page is about. It gives the potential reader a preview of what they can expect from the page contents.
When you hear SEO professionals talk about metas, this is what they’re talking about.
Google has said that the meta description holds no bearing on rankings positions. However, check out the page one results of any search. They all have meta descriptions.
Even if this bit of text doesn’t matter for rankings it definitely matters for click-through rate (CTR). In some case studies, adding more value and length to a pages meta description led to a 36% increase in CTR.
How Long Should A Meta Description Be?
We have established that meta description length is important in boosting CTR. But, what’s the magic number? How long should a meta description be to get the positive results you want?
Take a look at a standard search results page. You want your meta description to fit in the little box under the title. These descriptions also have a great chance at position zero.
Position zero, or the featured snippet position, is better than number one. So, aiming your meta description at answering the query that has a chance at a snippet is in your best interest.
The optimal length for the snippet feature is 155-240 characters in length. Aim to be in the middle of this range to hit the meta sweet spot. So, what does that look like?
Take the query “how to remove gum”. If you type it into the Google search bar the first result you see is a featured snippet. The snippet is an article titled “How to Remove Gum from Clothing” and the snippet is the page’s meta description.
Their meta description is “Apply the hair spray directly onto the chewing gum and it will harden. Then just scrape the chewing gum off. Vinegar. Soak the garment in hot vinegar, then brush or scrape the gum off gently with a blunt tool to avoid damaging the fabric.” The exact answer to the question at hand.
Notice this description is 238 characters. Also, if I’m trying to remove gum from my favorite shirt I’m clicking into that article to make sure that’s the complete solution.
Subheadings are smaller text than the headers/titles but should still be signified within the text to stand out. Not only does this help with readability, but for ranking, too. Oftentimes these will be in H2, H3, or H4 tags, all the way up to H6.
The key, here, is that they’re different than paragraph text, or even bolded/italicized text.
Again, your keywords/keyword phrase will be something that comes up within your text, introduction, meta description, and title. It should also be something ‘searchable’ or SEO-friendly in terms of what’s actually going to bring users to your page.
For example, if you sell shoes you might want a keyword phrase to be “best women’s shoes.”
With keywords, it’s important to use them, but not over-do them. You don’t want to ‘keyword stuff’ which means putting a bunch of keywords and phrases into your text to hopefully rank higher. This will actually do the opposite and hurts your ranking because Google knows when you’re trying too hard!
5. External & Internal Linking
External links are very important, not only to help your site build credibility but to make your site appear more relevant in terms of related content. For example, if you have a recent study in your text, you’ll want to link out to it for verification purposes. This will tell Google that you’re a site to be trusted, too, which can only help your rank.
Internal links, on the other hand, will help navigate users to other parts of your site. These links are ones that point back to other pages on your actual website. For example, an ‘Authors’ page that links out (but within your site, still) to other individual author pages.
6. Short Links and Long Posts
When it comes to links, short is best. Rather than saying something like, “the-best-shoes-for-women-2016-item-34” you might want to change it to, “best-shoes-for-women,” or even better, ‘best-womens-shoes.” Having this shorter and more concise URL is not only easier for people to type in and search, but for users to navigate (and Google to index).
If possible, try to incorporate your keywords into the URL itself. Avoid having the date, year, or any ‘stop’ words such as “and,” “for,” or “the.” You also don’t want to have ‘ugly’ URLs that have confusing words, numbers, or slashes throughout. Any item numbers or page numbers are not preferred either.
On the other hand, when it comes to posts and content, longer is often preferred. While it’s not necessarily required to have long-form blog posts and written content, arguably it helps. Some sites even say that over 1,500 words is best. Longer from also keeps people on your page for a longer amount of time. It also help to keep your post from feeling ‘stuffed’ with keywords, phrases, and internal/external links.
7. Image Optimization
Another key aspect of boosting SEO is to make your images as SEO-optimized as possible. This means adding ALT tags to your images and giving them a title, too. Rather than “IMG-456” you can resave the file as “best-womens-shoes-1” or “blue-womens-shoes.” Or, if you have a non-product image, for example, you could label it by the title of your post. You could also title it by its description like this: “Woman wearing blue shoes,” etc.
Not only does this help make your images more searchable, but for those with vision impairments, having ALT tags allows them to access the material in a different way. This makes your site overall more accessible and user-friendly. And this is key for Google to rank you higher.
Another benefit to optimizing images for SEO best-practice is that it can strengthen your site’s load time. You want to have SEO-optimized images not only in terms of title and ALT, but size of the image matters as well. You want to ensure that the image is large enough to be viewed on both mobile and desktop screens, but small enough to load without compression or speed issues. For image compression, we always recommend using https://squoosh.app.
8. Page Speed
Another important aspect of boosting your site is to increase its speed. Although not directly correlated to on-page SEO per se, it’s an important aspect. The quicker your site loads and runs on desktop, tablet, and mobile, the more appeal and rank it will gather.
Did you know that bounce rates increase by 50% if your website takes just two extra seconds to load? And, fixing that can increase your revenue by 3.2%.
While most business owners seem to understand the importance of having a website that loads fast, it usually seems that they’re not really sure why it’s important, just that it is.
Page loading speed is a huge part of user experience, which is a large factor in your site’s overall SEO ranking. So, if you want to do great at SEO, you’re going to have to optimize your site speed.
However, before making any changes, it’s important to fully understand the importance of what you’re doing. Keep reading to understand how page loading speed affects your SEO.
What is Page Speed Optimization?
Simply put, page speed is the amount of time it takes for your website or a particular page to load once someone clicks on it.
In more technical terms, it’s actually the speed taken from a sample of page views on your website. You might also see it displayed as something like “page load time” or “time to first byte.”
The former measures how long a page takes to load while the latter is for how long it taste to get the first byte of information up on the page. Both are important!
This is how search engines determine how fast your pages load, which is why it’s so important to ensure every user has a great, fast experience every time they visit your pages.
If you’re totally new to this kind of technical jargon then it’s important to understand that you can’t optimize an entire page with one click. You’ll have to optimize it part-by-part and attack or improve various factors.
Page Speed Optimization Basics
If you’ve hired a web developer to handle all edits and updates to your website, then they’ll likely know how to optimize it for speed. If they’re not currently implementing these changes, then speak with them about what you’re looking for.
If you’re going at it all alone, then it’s nice to at least understand what to look for so you know where to start.
File compression, redirects, caching, and server response time are some of the four biggest issues that most businesses see when they’ve got slow loading speeds. If your website has a lot of large files on it, such as images or videos, then make sure you’re compressing them in order to save space.
A large photo file, for example, is going to slow down the loading speed a lot. If you compress your files, then the server isn’t going to have to work so hard to retrieve the information.
Page redirects are another factor that can cause your site to load slowly. If a user is navigating your website and they click on a button, then the site is going to redirect them to another page.
Making the redirect pattern as simple as possible means that the server doesn’t have to waste time loading each step. This helps a lot with loading speed.
Browser caching is a nice little trick that most web developers use today. If your website has a lot of repeat visitors, then enabling browser caching means that your site will save their information the next time they visit.
Now, instead of loading the page information from scratch, your server will have a bit of the data stored and won’t have to reload the entire page.
Exploring the Benefits of Fast Pages
Understanding the basics of how to optimize your pages is the base you need to then move on to making sense of how it all benefits you. And, it definitely benefits you. It all has to do with on-page SEO.
Search engine optimization is the act of optimizing your website in order to make it easier for search engines to read it and rank it.
The higher quality the information you provide it with, the easier it is for Google or another search engine to scan it and show it to somebody when they search for a related keyword.
But, how does Google decide which pages to show to people when they look for something? They have a special ranking algorithm that they use, and one of the factors is site speed.
If your site isn’t loading fast, it’s likely due to the individual loading speed of each page, right? Optimizing the page speed, therefore, increases your chances of Google ranking your site.
Not only that, but it’s a huge part of whether or not people stay on your site. Use yourself as an example. You’re not going to wait longer than a few seconds for a page to load, right?
After more than a few seconds, you’ll click off the page, go back to the results and look for another website to view.
This is horrible for your SEO ranking as it shows Google, over time, that users don’t like your site. If users don’t like your site then they won’t continue to rank it high or even show it to users at all.
How Loading Speed Affects UX
User experience is another on-page SEO factor that search engines take into account when deciding how to rank your website.
When a user searches for “Greek restaurants in Baltimore,” for example, the search engine wants to provide them with the best and most accurate page. Once they reach the page, they want them to have a good experience.
What’s that mean? It means that the page loads fast, that all of the images in the page load, that the site is easy to navigate, and that the information on-page is highly relevant to what they’re looking for.
Pages with longer loading times usually have higher bounce rates. In fact, users nowadays are so impatient that they’ll only wait two seconds before leaving your site if it doesn’t load.
One study also reported that longer loading times can negatively affect the conversions on your page. Users simply don’t want to navigate a website that’s slow to load or hard to navigate.
And, once somebody clicks off your site due to a poor experience, they’re not likely to return. This means that you’ve just lost out on important traffic that you need to build your brand and increase conversions.
The simple solution? Improving your page loading speed.
User experience depends a lot on value, accessibility, usability, and quality. All of these could be considered to be a part of loading speed, right?
If a page loads slowly, it’s not valuable, accessible, usable, or high-quality. Therefore, it’s pretty easy to see how interconnected everything is in terms of loading speed, UX, and SEO.
Most modern-day web designers have this at the forefront of their design principles. User-centric design is pretty popular nowadays, which is why responsive websites and dynamic content have become such a big deal.
Loading Speed and SEO Rankings
Let’s take a second to recap what we’ve learned. Loading speed is important, right? Yes!
Not only is it an important part of the ranking algorithm that Google uses in order to figure out which pages to rank on the first page of the results, but it’s also crucial for user experience.
And, while it might seem like site speed is just one of the on-page SEO factors that lead to a higher ranking, it’s actually pretty intertwined with nearly every aspect of SEO.
Take a look at any SEO guide online and you’ll see a few of the factors that affect SEO ranking. Normally, this includes:
- An accessible website
- Page speed
- Optimized content
- Technical SEO
- User experience
- Social signals
- High-quality links
So far, it’s clear that the two we’ve already mentioned make the list. User experience and page speed are both parts of loading speed.
However, having a mobile-friendly website, an accessible website, and optimizing your content are all by-products of optimizing loading speed.
Let’s say that you invest in responsive web design. This means that you’re going to work with a web developer who will ensure that your site adapts to fit the device that the user is viewing it on.
If they’re viewing your website on a table, then your site will adjust accordingly and load a lot faster than if the page had to try and adjust. Chances are, it would never fully load properly.
Studies show that websites with responsive design actually load faster in general. You combine that with optimized content and it’s easy to see how they’re all connected.
Focusing on SEO tips and working towards ensuring your entire site is SEO optimized is going to help you ensure that your pages load fast and that users enjoy their time on each page.
Optimizing with Google AMP Pages
If you’re interested in seeing how your pages are currently performing in order to begin analyzing how to optimize them, then there are tools you can use.
First, you’ll want to take a look at Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This tool uses Chrome user experience data and churns out reports for you based on two different speed metrics.
These might be a little difficult for you to understand if you’re not very technical, but working with your web developer to make sense of where you’re going wrong according to the metrics can help a lot.
Then, you can start working to optimize your pages by using Google AMP, or accelerated mobile pages.
The website publishing technology allows you to create pages that load almost immediately on mobile phones. Google is able to do this because they host the page on their own servers.
The majority of online traffic nowadays is mobile. It’s overtaken the internet so much, in fact, that Google uses mobile-first indexing in order to rank pages.
So, working towards creating a responsive design or at least optimizing your mobile pages first is going to be important.
This will naturally require you to create AMP pages separately, but it can help a lot in terms of loading speed, especially if you’re not planning on switching to responsive design and need to optimize normal pages for mobile devices.
While this might sound like a lot of work, Google is actually really great about providing users with the tools they need to publish AMP pages.
When you create an AMP page, they provide you with a guideline so that you know what you need to be focusing on. You’ll be able to use the AMP Test Tool in order to ensure that the page meets Google search requirements.
Other aspects of your site’s design or layout can contribute to slowing it down or speeding it up. When it comes to making your site move faster, make sure your theme/layout is responsive. You may also want to learn more about scroll vs. infinite scroll and who your host is. If you’re using a domain host, that host can also help you with speed and load issues as well.
9. User-Friendly Content
We saved the best for last. One of the most significant and most important aspects of on-page SEO is to make sure the content you create is readable and straightforward. While this doesn’t mean dumbing down the content, it does mean making sure you’re using words that make sense and not trying to ‘fluff’ your posts unnecessarily. Avoid using big words that aren’t necessary.
User-friendliness is also a high priority. You want your content to be quickly navigable. This applies to both desktop and mobile versions. Regardless of where your content’s being searched—it should be easy to go through and absorb. In terms of navigation, make sure that you use a ‘top-down’ approach. Your pages should nest within one another and make sense logically. For example, a home page might be the main page, with ‘About’ and ‘Our Mission’ as secondary pages.
Currently, there are around 1.7 billion sites on the Internet. This doesn’t include webpages, which are hosted on the websites. Did you know that each month, Google sifts through 30 trillion webpages? During that same month, it’ll perform over 100 billion searches. That’s a lot of content for your prospective customers to shift through in order to get to your site and services.
So, not only do you need your website to stand out from the 1.7 billion sites on the Internet, but you want it to stand out on search engines. So, not only do you want your content to be engaging, but SEO friendly.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and its focus is to see if your site is not only engaging but properly uses the keywords and topics surrounding the search terms people put into search engines when looking for information relative to their query.
If your website is SEO optimized, there is a higher likelihood people will “stumble” upon it when searching for specific keywords. But, if the website is SEO optimized, but fails to have engaging content, you’ll lose a potential customer or reader immediately.
The SEO gets them there, but the engaging content makes them not only stay but return to the site again (which also helps rankings).
Inspiring Content Creates Sales
Your content doesn’t only need to be on your website, but you’ll also need to craft content that inspires your audience on your social media to click-through to your website.
Besides on-page SEO best-practices, social media is one way many people discover your business or services. If you have engaging content, there is a higher chance people will not only engage with it via comments or likes but also share it.
The more people see your high-quality content, the more likely they are to click through to your page. This could then transform into a sale or new customer!
These days, however, inspiring content isn’t the only thing that will help you succeed. You’ll need engaging content that is specifically tailored to your audience. You can do this by both creating copy based on your ideal or target customer, and by purchasing ads on social media that target this customer.
Remember, people on social media see hundreds, if not thousands, of ads every day. These ads are all targeted to their demographic for one reason or another. As such, you’ll want to release 100% unique, professional, and engaging content that rivals the other content they see each time they jump on their mobile devices.
One reason engaging content is so important is that it can bring in customers and readers you weren’t expecting. You may then make a sale from an individual who was looking to solve a problem that your expertise helps with.
Solving a problem with engaging content is one of the fundamentals of on-page SEO, and it attracts people who are actively researching and searching for content similar to yours. For example, if you’re a hardware store, you may only get hits from people looking for things that you sell in your hardware store.
That will get you some hits, but if you solve a problem, readers like yours might have, this could bring in even more hits. This is especially the case if you solve the problem in an engaging manner.
Taking the example of the hardware store, say you create a bi-weekly column where you give people advice on sprucing up their home. You can then adapt to search engine keywords for people who may be looking for something like decorating their dorm rooms without leaving permanent marks.
Your engaging content can show your readers exactly how to decorate their dorm room, showing off the supplies your hardware store sells. Now, you’ll get not only people looking for a specific item, but you’ll give people ideas on how to fix a problem. And since they’re already at your site, they’re more likely to purchase something you’re recommending.
Frequently Update Your Content
If your website features only the items you sell or the services you offer, and it never changes, you’re not likely to have repeat visitors or high traffic. Sure, it can help people find you if they need your particular service. But there just isn’t a reason to return for another visit to your site. Updating your content on a regular basis is one of the core foundations of on-page SEO.
Engaging content that is updated often gives repeat readers a reason to visit your site. Create a schedule in which you update your site with new content every so often. This provides your readers with something to look forward to, and a way to boost your stats.
Never Underestimate the Power of Engaging Content
“Content is King!” has long been the saying when it comes to creating high-quality Internet sites. And since the Internet has been a constant in our everyday lives for nearly two decades now, we know that engaging content simply works when it comes to continually attracting readers.
There is simply no replacement for good, clean copy.
How to Implement On-Page SEO
Some of the best practices for on-page SEO are, unfortunately, far outdated. Rather than stressing about exactly where to place your keywords or how to expertly find searchable phrases, focus more on optimizing for search intent.
Google is often picking high-ranking pages based on a particular search query.
If your content isn’t what people are looking for, it’s not going to show up (let alone rank!).
Real on-page SEO success is tapping into what these searchers want (aka search intent) and curtailing your site and posts around that intent.
Search intent is all about what the user is searching for when he or she puts a thought or question into Google.
For example, if someone is searching ‘best workout shoes’ they are probably looking for pages that show the top types of shoes, different available brands, and shop pages to directly buy the shoes.
Other top pages could potentially be blogs or sites that compare different workout shoes or the brand pages explaining what makes a particular pair different or better than another.
All of these sites are very different but are related to that original keyword search/question.
As a website owner, it’s best to incorporate your website into as many of those ‘search queries’ as possible (when relevant, of course, and without overdoing it).
The more your site relates to the search query, the more it will show up. And the more it shows up, the more it will be clicked, thus making it grow more and more!
When you’re optimizing based on the consumer’s search, your page will likely start to rank (and rank fast!).
SEO Best Practices
On-page SEO is about more than just title tags, meta descriptions, and keywords. It focuses on what’s the best in terms of searches and giving consumers (and the Google algorithm) what it wants.
Ignoring these basic SEO principles means you have been missing a huge opportunity for free traffic. A great title tag and descriptions indicate a higher click-through rate and a better chance at winning rankings for more keywords.
Go through your whole site and make sure to address every title and description. No duplicates and no missing. Does that overwhelm you? We’ve got you covered.
Let our professional team of SEO experts handle the dirty work. We will make sure you put your best foot forward on that Google results page.
If you’re not focused on reaching the people and what they’re searching—all your best optimization efforts will fail. Starting from the ground up is essential. And that means finding what your potential customers are searching and gearing your efforts around that. Then, once you have a strong base of SEO built on your page it’s easier to maintain and grow with the current trends.
It’s also important to remember that building SEO, especially on-page SEO is a process. It’s not something that will be ‘fixed’ or implemented overnight. Be patient with your process, especially if you recently did a site overhaul. Seeing the changes and rankings will take time. And you might not see any return for several weeks, if not months. Don’t be frustrated, though! Working on this aspect of your business and website is essential—if not necessary for your business’ future.
The Future of SEO
Keep in mind that on-page SEO and the best practices for it will change, too, with time and more internet users. Some ways to keep up-to-date with the latest trends is to follow blogs and marketing newsletters, research top trends, and join forums to learn more.
For more information and to get in touch with us about our SEO services, you can also browse our blog page or reach out to us directly with questions and concerns.
President, Direction Inc.